Legislation introduced by six Senators aims to offer regulatory relief and flexibility for hospitals that are trying to meet obligations of the federal meaningful use program.

The senators late Wednesday unveiled the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Regulatory Relief Act (S. 3173), indicating that they offered the bill to bring some of the relief announced for physicians to the hospital sector.

The six Republican senators belong to a group that issued a report three years ago suggesting changes needed in federal policy strategies to successfully adopt healthcare information technology, and are known as REBOOT members.

Sponsors of the legislation include Sens. John Thune (R-SD), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KN), Richard Burr (R-NC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

The authors of the bill say that regulatory flexibility is needed to help hospitals and medical providers focus on transitioning into the patient-focused payment policies created by Congress in the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).

Those introducing the bill suggested that they have received cooperation from the administration in crafting the bill, which aims to address near-term relief for hospitals dealing with the program.

“I’m thankful for the administration’s willingness to provide constructive feedback and engage with Senate REBOOT members on this important piece of legislation,” says Thune.

In April, the senators wrote Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt to request input on a draft bill, and with the feedback they received, developed the version that was introduced yesterday.

The legislation “will give hospitals the same flexibility that Congress passed for doctors with overwhelming bipartisan support last April, and it will give doctors and hospitals the certainty of law that the 90-day reporting window for meaningful use earlier this month is here to stay,” says Alexander, who is chair of the Senate health committee.

The proposed legislation would:

  • Codify the proposal by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to set a 90-day reporting period for 2016.
  • Remove the all-or-nothing approach to meaningful use, in which missing attainment of one objective results in failure to achieve incentive funding from the program.
  • Offer flexibility in the hardship exemption that offers relief to providers for 2016 and 2017.

“One-size-fits-all regulation is jeopardizing the full potential for electronic health records to improve care for North Carolinians,” Burr says. “I’m pleased to be working with my colleagues to advance common-sense policy that will provide flexibility and better support North Carolina’s hospitals and doctors in what’s most important—providing quality care to North Carolinians.”
“As a doctor, I know firsthand how bureaucratic hurdles can interfere with patient care,” Cassidy adds. “This legislation will reduce those regulatory burdens on providers, allowing them to better serve patients.”

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